On Nov. 4, 1769, Captain Juan Gaspar de Portola and his team came over the top of Sweeney Ridge to view what we now call San Francisco Bay.
What they saw was not the developed and industrialized bay area of today. Wooded hillsides leveled into wind-swept flats next to the shorelines around the expansive body of water.
On Nov. 4, 2011, I set out to explore the east side of Sweeney Ridge in search of inspiration.
Following the rains of the previous night, the sun shone brightly through white puffy clouds, contrasting with the deep sky-blue color. Cloud shadows created interesting shapes on the hills. Birds rustled in the bushes.
Others emerged onto tips of branches singing in the morning sun. A soft wind carried their songs into the autumn air.
I stopped to breathe in the morning and saw a view that took my breath away—a winding trail up the ridge, layers of hills receding and blending into the sky, and reflections of Crystal Springs Reservoir peeking between the hills. This was a pristine view without man-made structures.
I gathered my paints and canvas and began mixing colors and painting with abandon. I painted motion into the clouds. Mixing the remaining sky colors with yellow, orange and purple gave me a range of greens for the hills.
My whole palette was filled with shades from blue-green for the distant hills to a darker yellow-green for the foreground brush.
As I was painting, cyclists, a young man with his infant in a stroller and hikers passed by like breezes. Time swept by too.
The beauty consumed me. The brush moved effortlessly across the canvas, my hand following in obedience to its direction. Layers of colors were added, as dots, dabs and swishes shaped my inspiration into a landscape with eucalyptus, hills and valleys, water and sky.
I never take for granted the beauties of the San Francisco Bay area or the joy of being an artist wooed by the scenery and swept away into the arms of nature.
San Bruno is perfectly located with views of the bay to the east and the ocean to the west. There's a perfect mix of urban landscapes, parks and nature trails.
Plus, it has the perfect weather for me—just enough sunshine to make me smile, rain to color the landscape and breezes that provide free air conditioning.
If you want to get outside and paint, I encourage you to join me on my next outing. Reply in the comments below or email me.
Janet Arline Barker is a San Bruno artist who specializes in plein-art painting. Her website is janetarlinebarker.com. Her column appears biweekly on Sundays.